It’s easy to earn bonus rewards on most purchases. After all, most of my purchases fall into the travel, gas, dining and grocery bonus categories offered by many of the best rewards credit cards.
However, you may occasionally need to make a purchase that doesn’t fall into a bonus category on any of your cards. You don’t have to accept earning 1x rewards on these purchases, though. Instead, you can use one of the best credit cards for everyday spending.
One of our favorite everyday spending cards here at The Points Guy is the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. After all, it’s easy to earn and redeem Capital One Venture Rewards miles. And, The Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly, has picked the Capital One Venture Card as the one card he’d keep if he could only have one.
Today, I decided to see just how many types of purchases I could come up with that wouldn’t earn bonus rewards on most of the best rewards credit cards. But, of course, all of these purchases would earn 2x miles with the Capital One Venture. So, these are the types of purchases you’d want to put on your Capital One Venture.
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How to earn more value with the Capital One Venture
Whether a purchase earns bonus rewards for a bonus category depends on the code assigned to the merchant. In particular, merchants are given a code depending on the types of products and services they sell. So, even if you understand how credit card issuers classify travel and dining purchases, you still may not earn bonus rewards if a merchant is coded differently than you expect. For example, a shop selling bagels and coffee may be classified as a bakery instead of a coffee shop.
If you think you might earn bonus rewards on a large purchase, you may want to make a smaller purchase with your card to see how the purchase codes. But, if you use one of the best everyday spending cards, you don’t have to worry about how the purchase will code.
There’s a reason we focus on the Capital One Venture in this guide instead of all everyday spending cards: it’s the best stand-alone consumer everyday spending card. In particular, earning Capital One miles is straightforward. And, redeeming Capital One miles is extremely simple whether you choose to redeem at a fixed rate or transfer your miles to airport or hotel partners.
Purchases to make with the Capital One Venture
Now, let’s consider some purchases that will usually earn 1x rewards with most of the best travel rewards cards and best cash-back cards. Of course, all of these purchases would still earn 2x rewards with the Capital One Venture.
You can earn bonus rewards using one of the best cards for gas purchases when you fuel up. And, you’ll usually snag bonus rewards when you use one of the best cards for travel purchases to pay for tolls, parking and rental cars. But, you generally won’t earn bonus rewards on other automotive expenses including:
- Automotive repairs
- Motor vehicle supplies, tires and parts
- Auto service shops, including body repair shops, tire repair shops and paint shops
- Car washes
- Towing services
- Vehicle purchases including cars, trucks, boats, campers, trailers, motorcycles, motorhomes and snowmobiles
Childcare and education
Childcare and education are considerable expenses for many consumers. Sure, you can maximize points and miles on back-to-school shopping and use the best credit cards for school supplies. But, in many cases, you may not be able to pay for many of the most substantial childcare and education expenses using a credit card. And, even if you can use a credit card, you generally won’t earn bonus rewards on the following types of purchases:
- Elementary and secondary school tuition
- College tuition
- Professional and trade school tuition
- Testing fees
- Childcare services, including daycare expenses and pre-school
Home care and furnishings
Since I’m a digital nomad, I don’t have any home improvement or furnishing expenses. But, I know many people who have moved in the last couple of months, and they surely have been racking up costs on home repairs and furniture. But, unfortunately, the following types of purchases usually don’t earn bonus rewards:
- Landscaping and horticultural services
- Purchases from nurseries and lawn or garden supply stores
- Home repairs including general contractor services
- Glassware and crystal stores
- Furniture and carpet stores
- Drapery and fabric stores
- Furniture reupholstering shops
- Carpet and upholstery cleaning services
- Swimming pools sales and services
Granted, the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card can earn 3% cash back with select online shopping merchants or home improvement and furnishings if you choose either of these as your 3% category (on the up to $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter; then 1%). However, 3% isn’t much higher than the 2.8% return you can get from the Capital One Venture on all purchases. So, unless you prefer cash-back rewards, I’d stick with the Venture.
It can be challenging to determine how specialty stores will code. So, I generally assume I won’t earn bonus rewards and instead use an everyday spending card when shopping at the following types of stores:
- Pet stores
- Shops that primarily sell precious stones, metals or jewelry
- Cosmetic stores
- Cigar stores
- Sporting goods stores
- Hobby, toy and game shops
- Camera and photo supply stores
- Artist and craft shops
- Art dealers and galleries
- Stamp and coin stores
- Bicycle shops
- Stationery stores
- Music stores, including stores that mainly sell pianos or records
- Commercial equipment stores
- Duty-free stores
- Specialty food stores including meat lockers, nut and confectionery stores, candy stores, bakeries and dairy stores
- Tent and awning shops
- Wig and toupee stores
- Specialty clothing stores, including stores specializing in shoes and fur
- Used merchandise stores including antique shops, pawn shops and antique reproduction services
- Salvage yards
Of course, this is another broad category where you may want to use the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card if you’ve selected online shopping merchants your 3% category. However, only some online merchants are eligible. So, there’s no guarantee that online shopping purchases made with your Cash Rewards card will earn 3%. However, if you use the Capital One Venture, you know you’ll earn 2x miles.
Thankfully, my out of pocket healthcare costs are generally relatively low. But, for some people, healthcare is one of their largest expenses. Luckily, most healthcare providers accept credit cards. But, you usually won’t earn any bonus rewards on the following types of charges:
- Ambulance service
- Nursing and personal care services
- Medical services from doctors, physicians, dentists, chiropractors, optometrists and other healthcare professionals
- Counseling services
- Hospital care
- Medical and dental lab services
- Hearing aid sales and service
As such, if you incur a lot of health care costs regularly, you should use an everyday spending card such as the Capital One Venture. By doing so, you can earn more rewards on these unavoidable expenses.
Many support services aren’t generally classified as bonus category purchases on most rewards cards. In particular, I generally don’t expect the following services to earn bonus rewards:
- Catering services
- Laundry, cleaning, garment and dry cleaning services
- Legal and attorney services
- Florist services
- Veterinary services
- Marina services
- Tailor, seamstress and alteration services
- Photography services
- Public warehousing
- Clothing, costume and uniform rental services
- Hair salons and barbers
- Shoe repair, shoeshine and hat cleaning services
- Funeral services and crematoriums
- Massage parlors
- Health and beauty spas
- Dating and escort services
- Tax preparation service
- Shopping services
- Exterminating and disinfecting services
- Cleaning services
- Technology services, including computer maintenance and information retrieval
- Small appliance repair services
- Detective and protective services
- Management, consulting and public relations services
- Publishing and printing services
- Specialty cleaning and polishing services
- Courier services
Of course, these services may earn bonus rewards in some situations. For example, photography services offered at a hotel may earn bonus rewards as travel. And, catering services done by a restaurant may earn bonus rewards as dining.
You may be able to earn 3% cash back on some of these services if you shop online with an eligible merchant using the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card. However, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll earn 1% if the purchase isn’t considered eligible. So, I’d recommend sticking with the Capital One Venture unless you are confident in how the purchase will code.
Finally, there are a few other types of charges that you may want to put on a credit card that generally won’t earn bonus rewards. However, you should be able to earn 2x miles with the Capital One Venture on the following purchases:
- Charity donations
- Membership fees for political, religious, auto, civic, social, fraternal and other organizations
- Court costs
- Payment of fines
- Bail and bond payments
- Payment of insurance premiums
- Payment for utility services
- Tax payments
- Payment for government services
- Registration for sporting and recreational camps (although this might code as entertainment or travel in some cases)
If you have the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card, you may earn 3x points for a 4.5% return on some of these purchases if the merchant accepts mobile wallet payment through Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay or LG Pay. However, I’ve found that some merchants don’t consistently accept mobile wallet payments.
And, some of the merchants may not accept credit cards at all. In this case, you may want to use a different merchant that accepts credit, consider using Plastiq or convince your preferred merchant to take credit. However, be sure to price compare when appropriate, as you don’t want to pay more to use a credit card than you’ll earn in rewards.
The information for the U.S. Bank Altitude card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Like my guide on 13 expenses that you should not put on your credit card, there are no hard rules here. Specifically, depending on the other cards you already have in your wallet and your earning preferences, a different everyday spending card may be better for you. And, especially if you have reoccurring purchases with the same merchant, determining how your purchases are coding can help you choose the best card to use.
But, if you’re looking for a straightforward card that earns valuable rewards on all your purchases, the Capital One Venture is a good choice. You don’t have to worry about how purchases will code. And, you can redeem Capital One Venture Rewards miles at a fixed rate or by transferring to partners.
Official application link: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card with an up to 100,000-mile bonus after spending $20,000 on purchases within the first 12 months of account opening. Or still earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 within the first three months.
Featured image by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy.